Selfishness. Ugh, what a dirty word. Most of us spend our days trying to emulate the opposite. We know our friends, family, coworkers and fellow activists are counting on us to get things done and to be there when they need us. We push ourselves to do more, be more and achieve more, because standing still is the same as moving backwards, right?
Drive and dedication are valuable attributes, but we often embrace them at our own peril. Neglecting our personal needs and desires only makes us weaker in the long run. If you really want to be strong for the people and causes that you love, you need to invest in yourself once in a while.
“Acting in the interests of others is great and makes the world a better place,” said Jonathan Z. Berman, the author of a study on happiness and selfishness, told Prevention.com. ”But it’s also okay to sometimes act unashamedly in your own self-interest, he says. Give yourself leave twice a day to put your own needs first. You’ll feel happier when your own lot improves, and you’ll derive more satisfaction during those other times when you help others.”
So how do we train ourselves to do that? Here are some ideas…
7 Smart Ways to Be Selfish (and Why You Should!)
1. Find your tribe (and yourself)
It’s very easy to lose yourself in the hustle and bustle of life. Between marriages, relationships, appointments, volunteer work and careers, our true sense of self — who we are and what we love — can get lost in the shuffle. Allow yourself to seek out the companions and activities that make you most happy, even if they aren’t of interest to your usual partners in crime.
2. Say “No”
Are you a people pleaser? Do you love to see others excited, and hate to be the cause of disappointment? If so, you probably find yourself saying yes to lots of requests, even when you’re too busy, tired or not feeling well. Learning how to say “no” is a powerful skill, and properly wielded, can help you take back your life and avoid burnout.
3. Seek a new skill
Just like muscles, the brain needs exercise. Age is no excuse to stop learning. New skills are a source of pride, benefit your career, and keep your gray matter in tip top shape. Consider learning a skill that’s completely unrelated to your 9-5 job, but brings you personal satisfaction. There are lots of free online classes offered from the world’s best universities (called Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs), and some even come with certificates of completion. Also check out the low-cost options over at Skillshare.com and learn from your peers, or simply ask a local expert to take you under their wing.
4. Take time to do nothing
Somewhere along the line we were tricked into thinking that doing nothing is the same as laziness. Untrue. The mind and body desperately need down time. Without it, we lose our creative juices, energy and patience. Schedule yourself some time to re-charge; it may actually make you more productive when you return to the daily grind.
5. Run away
No, not permanently, but just for an hour. Or a day. Or an entire weekend. Leave those dirty dishes in the sink, the kids with your spouse and escape to the coffee shop with a good book. Register for that conference you’ve always wanted to attend. Go on a solo hike or bike ride. The catharsis of leaving all behind, even temporarily, to be selfish will do your soul a world of good.
6. Talk to someone
Let’s be serious. Sometimes taking care of our emotional well-being means enlisting the help of an expert. We’re all quick to suggest this to friends and family when they’re struggling, but how many of us take our own advice? Seek out a religious leader, parent, lifelong friend or board-certified counselor, and share what you’re going through. You might be surprised at how nice it is to have an objective perspective.
7. Make time for movement
It seems like a chore, but regular exercise is one of the best forms of selfishness every invented. To look, feel and be your best, you have to be healthy, and that means being fit. Exercise, even just going for a daily walk, also releases endorphins and allows us to reconnect with nature; two things that greatly improve mood and mental health.
How do you invest in yourself? Share your “selfish“ ideas in a comment!
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